Best fiction books set in Ireland
August 29, 2008 8:18 AM   Subscribe

IrishFiction filter: What are some good, fiction novels or short story anthologies set in Ireland?

This is for a birthday present for my boss, who is planning a trip to Ireland next year. She usually reads fantasy novels but general fiction recommendations are welcome too.

I've seen this previous thread on books about Irish history, and I might get her one of those as well.
posted by donajo to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Trinity, by Leon Uris. Ignore the sequel.
posted by mkb at 8:26 AM on August 29, 2008

Dubliners, by James Joyce?
posted by Grither at 8:26 AM on August 29, 2008

Check out the plays of Martin McDonagh. Not all are set in Ireland, but most are (the ones that aren't are excellent too). They are very dark, but also very funny and interesting. Only buy for your boss if she has a sense of humor.
posted by whataboutben at 8:27 AM on August 29, 2008

Colum McCan's Everything in This Country Must is an awesome book; it's a novella packaged with a couple of short stories, and is short enough that your boss could probably finish it during the long plane ride.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:30 AM on August 29, 2008

anything Joyce.
posted by SansPoint at 8:39 AM on August 29, 2008

Best answer: Fantasy + Irish Literature and History = Morgan Llywelyn

I highliy recommend Lion of Ireland first, then Finn MacCool and The Bard.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:42 AM on August 29, 2008

I really liked Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, it's not fiction but more of an autobiography, yet a wonderful book.
posted by starzero at 8:46 AM on August 29, 2008

Roddy Doyle and his Barrytown trilogy: The commitments, The snapper and The Van, about the life of ordinary dubliners. The three books were turned into good movies too.
posted by elgilito at 8:56 AM on August 29, 2008

Seconding Roddy Doyle, and suggesting his Historical Fiction book "A Star Called Henry." So good. Also, "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" won the Booker prize in its year, but I haven't read it.
posted by sarahnade at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2008

For a humorous look at us Irish through the eyes of a tourist, try Round Ireland with a Fridge.
posted by pines at 9:07 AM on August 29, 2008

I agree with zoomorphic on the fantasy angle, Lion of Ireland ticks all the boxes. Along similar lines, Daughter of the Boyne or Sorrows of Tara from Patricia Aakhus (McDowell)

Angela's Ashes is extremely depressing reading, excellent book but you don't want your boss committing suicide.

I'm going to recommend something completely different: The Anthology Lifelines
I've gifted this over and over again to friends visiting Ireland and they loved it, and all the royalties go to an Irish charity active in developing countries.

A broad seection of Irish people choose their favorite poem and say why they like it, sounds quite boring but reading this anthology always strikes a chord with friends of mine all over the world.
posted by Wilder at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2008

Yes, fantasy + Ireland should definitely equal Morgan Llewellyn, as zoomorphic says. Red Branch is good, based on the Cuchulainn myths.
posted by fidelity at 9:26 AM on August 29, 2008

Try The Country Girls Trilogy or anything else by Edna O'Brien.
posted by ourobouros at 9:49 AM on August 29, 2008

Joyce isn't for everyone but worth checking out. Seconding Roddy Doyle - my favourite of his is The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, though it's hardly holiday reading.

A sweet coming of age story is Juno and Juliet by Julian Gough, and another is Emma Donoghue's Stir-fry.
posted by mippy at 9:51 AM on August 29, 2008

What, no love for Flann O'Brien? Start with At-Swim-Two-Birds -- it's a comedy, fantasy, and metafiction all rolled into one, praised lavishly when it was published by no less than Joyce Joyce himself.
posted by scody at 10:50 AM on August 29, 2008

uh, that would be JAMES Joyce. Joyce Joyce was his lesser-known sister with a stammer.
posted by scody at 10:51 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed (and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it) Ray Bradbury's Green Shadows, White Whale.

It's not sci-fi, it's the story of Ray Bradbury working on the screenplay for Moby Dick when he was a young writer.
posted by ugf at 11:00 AM on August 29, 2008

Erg, which he did while living in Ireland, and it influences him greatly.
posted by ugf at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2008

Belfast: Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman. One of my all-time favorite book jackets, too!
posted by mattbucher at 11:04 AM on August 29, 2008

seconding scody; Flann O Brien is your only man. The Third Policeman is genius.
posted by scruss at 11:27 AM on August 29, 2008

Diane Duane's A Wizard Abroad. Part of her Young Wizards series, ostensibly for young adults but in reality quite wonderful for fantasy fans who happen to be adults. Accessible even if you've not read the first three (it's the fourth in the series).
posted by WCityMike at 12:46 PM on August 29, 2008

Best answer: In The Woods is very good genre fiction (much better than crime novels need to be, sort of Dennis Lehane-y) set in and around modern-day Dublin; it's got an immersive feel to it, a strong sense of place without a lot of gratuitous window-dressing.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:47 PM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well if you are going to include non-fiction there's McCarthy's Bar
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:22 PM on August 29, 2008


Don't forget The Dalkey Archive and The Hard Life.

Although the appeal of O'Brien/na Gopaleen/O'Nolan is not so much the portrayal of Irish life but the pure concentrated Hiberno-English. If your boss is not a big one for idiosyncratic prose style, I'd keep those books for my own personal reading pleasure.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:57 PM on August 29, 2008

Colm Tobin, I recommend The South or The Blackwater Lightship.
posted by fshgrl at 7:10 PM on August 29, 2008

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